Thursday, June 30, 2011

If An Opponent of Same-Sex Marriage Said This, It Would Be Bigotry

From the June 30, 2011 New York Times Magazine:
Although best known for his It Gets Better project, an archive of hopeful videos aimed at troubled gay youth, Savage has for 20 years been saying monogamy is harder than we admit and articulating a sexual ethic that he thinks honors the reality, rather than the romantic ideal, of marriage. In Savage Love, his weekly column, he inveighs against the American obsession with strict fidelity. In its place he proposes a sensibility that we might call American Gay Male, after that community’s tolerance for pornography, fetishes and a variety of partnered arrangements, from strict monogamy to wide openness.


“I acknowledge the advantages of monogamy,” Savage told me, “when it comes to sexual safety, infections, emotional safety, paternity assurances. But people in monogamous relationships have to be willing to meet me a quarter of the way and acknowledge the drawbacks of monogamy around boredom, despair, lack of variety, sexual death and being taken for granted.”
 Just like straight people, except for who they love?  Yeah, I know that there are straight people with "open marriages," but not too many straight people regard that as anything but the start of a disaster.  I bought a house in California from someone who, I later found out, was heavily engaged in the swinging scene with his wife.  And one day, his wife decided that after all the variety of their sexual lives...she preferred women to her husband, and left.  And this couple did not seem to be alone.

I know that there are gay couples who are monogamous and committed, and there are plenty of straight couples out there who utterly fail at this.  But at least they aren't demanding a complete rewrite of the laws around the claim that "we're just like straight people" while insisting that monogamy is impractical.

I found the link over at Ann Althouse's blog.  Some of the comments from otherwise pretty liberal sorts are quite interesting.

Remember Snakes on a Plane?

Fortunately, there was only one scorpion:

PORTLAND, Ore. — An Oregon man got a big surprise on a commercial flight from Seattle to Anchorage, Alaska, when he was stung by a scorpion while sitting in his plane seat.
Jeff Ellis of West Linn said he was trying to sleep on a red-eye Alaska Airlines flight June 17 when he felt something in his sleeve and tried to brush it away. He said he felt the crawling again, looked down and saw the culprit.

Read more:
The little fella apparently boarded the plane in Texas.  How did TSA miss him?

New PajamasMedia Article By Me Now Up

Mileage Math Mania

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Secretary Geithner: Let Me Help

June 28, 2011 NPR reports:
A billion dollars in dollar coins are stacked up in Federal Reserve vaults around the country because Americans don't want them. The dollar coin program has become a waste of money and space. Congress initiated the effort to promote presidential history and to build up interest in dollar coins as substitutes for bills. But the government wildly misjudged demand. 
Dear Secretary of the Treasury Geithner:

I appreciate the importance of every American pulling together for the common good, and I am pleased to volunteer my efforts with this problem.  There are limits to what I can do about this by myself, but I would be pleased to free up vault space for you; just ship me a million or so of those actually quite attractive dollar coins, and I guarantee you won't have to look at them again.

Let me go one better: I'll generously offer to drive to whatever Federal Reserve Bank is most suffering this problem, rent a truck, and haul all these useless dollar coins away for you, free of charge.

I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.

Very Truly Yours,

Clayton E. Cramer

Health Insurance

When I went to work for HP in 2001, I was a bit startled at how poor its health insurance was (copayments, deductibles, and premiums) compared to the thirteen person startup I worked for in California.  I guess that I assumed that the economies of scale of having many tens of thousands of employees in the U.S. would help.  HP's problem was that it had a more normal age distribution of employees than was typical in startups, where most employees were between 25 and 45.  At HP, there were many employees above 45, and as inevitably happens, the older you get, the more things go wrong.

The State of Idaho's health insurance, however, is as much of a disappointment compared to HP as HP was in comparison to those startups.  My wife recently had to have bone spur surgery on her shoulder.  Blue Cross's preauthorization letter estimated that we were going to be about $800 out of pocket on this...and it now turns out to be more like $1700 for a procedure that turned out to be completely what the surgeon expected.  The various individual health insurance policies that I have looked at, which have high deductibles and high premiums, are still more costly than the State of Idaho's plan--but the differences are becoming less and less dramatic, the more that I see of our plan.

It's unfortunate that the combination of health insurers and labor unions has prevented any serious and radical reform of the current system, which ties health insurance to employment, and prevents interstate competition.  Instead, we get crony capitalist measures like Obamacare.  The June 27, 2011 Politico has an article about the consultants getting rich off Obamacare:

More than $300 million in exchange grants has already flowed into the states since the Affordable Care Act passed. That number will grow exponentially in the coming months, as states move from the initial steps of passing exchange legislation to the more lucrative task of setting them up.
For health consultants and information technology vendors, it’s already shaping up to be a gold mine.
State health exchange planning documents obtained by POLITICO read like a who’s who of top health consulting firms, with contracts awarded to health vendors large and small. Between Indiana and Washington state — two of the three states that have received grants to establish exchanges so far — Deloitte Consulting, Mathematica Policy Research, Wakely Consulting Group and Milliman all have received exchange-related federal dollars.

Read more:
UPDATE: It appears that the preauthorization letter estimate was only for the surgeon's bills--not the hospital.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Wax On, Wax Off!

Remember the scene in The Karate Kid where the young kid learns self-discipline and builds up his upper body strength?

I only did two cars, but I am not young.  Did I feel it later!

Still, the results were stunning:

I am still impressed how well the Corvette's paint is handling rocks--and how poorly the Jaguar's paint is not.  When we bought it, the dealer tried to sell us a plastic coat for the front of the car to protect it from rock chips.  Since these sales jobs are always sprung on at the last minute, I know that they have a huge profit margin in them--and I declined to pay for it.  But then again, I have spent most of my life driving GM and Japanese cars, which have generally pretty tough paint.  Not the Jag.  I do think, in retrospect, buying this would have been a good deal.

This picture taken on the back driveway looks like the sort of advertising Chevrolet used to do:

Establishment of Religion Clause Violation?

A reader's comment pointed to this well done video pointing out that the Obama Administration has given special treatment to one religion over all others--something that by the ACLU's standards would qualify as an establishment of religion violation.

Now, there is a case that what the government is doing here in treating Islam with such sensitivity--while not doing so for other religions--is not really a sign of Islamic preference by our government.  It may be more accurate to describe it as diplomacy: "The art of saying, 'Nice doggie,' while looking for a rock."  (It is, by that reasoning, a sign that we consider Muslims temper tantrum tendency toddlers who can't control themselves.)  But it is quite astonishing how many people will go positively thermonuclear over prayers before a football game, and ignore such an obvious disparity in how our government treats one religion relative to others.

My Son Told Me About This Site: First World Problems

I'm not much for feeling guilt-ridden about the advantages of living in the First World--even as poor and miserable as things have become in the last several years--but this website First World Problems is a riot!  Some of these are examples of stupid stuff that people say on Facebook with a limited awareness that these are not exactly "problems" in the sense that most of the planet would recognize something as a "problem," and others are people making fun of such narcissistic sorts:
The fake girlfriend I created on Facebook is causing problems for me

I recently got basic cable in my bedroom, but there is no guide so I must scroll thru the channels like a peasant

The Domino's Pizza Tracker is not working. Now I don't know when to put my pants on.
I keep losing my mouse pointer on my three monitors.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Useful Responses From Readers

I mentioned how much work tapping in steel is compared to aluminum, and aluminum compared to acetal, and a reader said that I needed to use a spiral point tap (often called a "gun tap" because of the industry that it came out, as did many of our basic machine tools) instead of a plug or bottoming tap, the type commonly sold in hardware stores. 

It turns out that some of my taps are indeed, gun taps, and work wonderfully well.  Others are the traditional bottoming tap.  This is the right choice if you are tapping a blind hole.  Still, it is faster to use a gun tap to start the hole, and then use the bottoming tap to complete it.  For through holes, the gun tap is the right choice.  I was completing an order for a customer in Illinois earlier, and for that, I was tapping 1/4"-20 holes in aluminum tubing--and with a little thread cutting oil on the tap, it went through just beautifully.

I noticed an interesting statement in the Wikipedia article:
The largest tap and die company to exist in the United States was Greenfield Tap & Die (GTD) of Greenfield, Massachusetts. GTD was so irreplaceably vital to the Allied war effort from 1940-1945 that anti-aircraft guns were placed around its campus in anticipation of possible Axis air attack.
 I actually own a number of Greenfield taps and dies, by the way.

Unusual Aluminum U-Channel?

I have a new product line in mind for ScopeRoller, and I need to make what is effectively a U out of sheets of 1/4" thick aluminum.  But it struck me that it would be faster to buy U-channel aluminum extrusions and cut them into 1/4" thick slices (perhaps machining them for evenness and dimensions).  What I would need, however, would be a U-channel that was 1/4" thick, with a 1 1/8" gap, and the legs would be 2-3" long.  That's an unusual size for a U-channel extrusion.  Any suggestions for an industry that uses something like that?

New York City & Extortion

I was researching an article about extortion laws, and I found this quite interesting quote from U.S. v. LOCAL 807 OF INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS, CHAUFFEURS, STABLEMEN AND HELPERS OF AMERICA et al.118 F.2d 684(2nd Cir. 1941).  The question was whether the federal government could prosecute a labor union for extortion (violence and threats of violence against non-union and even non-local union truck drivers in exchange for payment).  The Supreme Court later decided in U.S. v. Teamsters, 315 U.S. 521 (1942) that no, they could not: Congress, when passing the federal extortion statute, had not intended it to be used against labor unions.  Nonetheless, the appellate court decision has this interesting section:
In conclusion we may add that a consideration of the evil at which Congress was aiming, seems to us to confirm the construction we are putting upon what it said. For a number of years before 1934 — at least 688*688 in the City of New York — the levy of blackmail upon industry, especially upon relatively small shops, had become very serious, and the local authorities either would not, or could not, check it. The courts were powerless, because the witnesses were terrorized and could not be protected if they told what they knew; the public felt themselves at the mercy of organized gangs of bandits and became much wrought up over the situation.
Gee, why in New York City?  Those who read my article about the history of the Sullivan Law can guess: organized crime and labor unions were intimately tied, and the goal of the Sullivan Law was to make sure that only the politically connected, such as the Mafia, would be armed.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Always Love To See Obama's Campaign Wasting Money

I needed to send a link to a previous posting to someone, and I was somewhat startled to see this automatically generated ad!

Why am I guessing that this ad did not generate much positive feedback?  But hey, if they want to spend their money foolishly--and some of it ends up in my pocket to back his Republican challenger--I won't complain!